Father of the fatherland
The Altare della Patria (‘The Altar of the Fatherland’), also known as the National Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II or ‘Il Vittoriano,’ is an enormous, striking building in the centre of Rome, commemorating the unification of Italy by Vittorio Emanuele, the first king of the new country. The monument is located beside Trajan’s Forum
, just down the road from the Roman Forum
and the Colosseum
Situated near the heart of the old Roman Empire, standing 81 meters tall and covering 17,000 square metres, the building demands attention. Its location, impressive size and intricate design all call to mind the aesthetic grandeur of Rome’s glorious past. Although the monument was not completed until 1925, its white columned façade and huge mythological figures in stone and bronze give Il Vittoriano the appearance of a building plucked straight from the Roman Empire.
Vittorio and the victories
Visitors can enter for free and take in stunning views of the surrounding city from the columned terrace atop the steps. There is also an elevator which can be accessed at the side of the building which allows visitors to go right to the top of the monument, and a Museum of Italian Unification at the bottom.
In front of the building is a giant equestrian statue of Emanuele himself, symbolising his strength and leadership. This is mounted above a sculpture of the goddess Roma, who is a modern creation modelled on ancient Rome’s patron goddess of battle and wisdom, Minerva. Beneath her is the Tomb of an Unknown Soldier, which commemorates those lost in World War I; Roma holds an eternal flame for them, which is kept under guard. High above, flanking both sides of the rooftop are two statues of Victory riding four-horse chariots. The monument is not only a shrine to Emanuele but to Rome itself, past, present and future.